November 21, 2023

Review: System Collapse

System Collapse System Collapse by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the seventh book in an immensely popular series that basically resurrected the author's career. Her protagonist and narrator, the nonhuman cyborg and "security unit" who calls itself Murderbot, is a dream character: conflicted, anxious, cranky, unsure of how to relate to the humans around it, fighting with its unfortunate tendency to have emotions, and in this book, in the grips of PTSD from the previous novel, Network Effect . Murderbot, as it calls itself, basically wants to be left alone to watch its shows, which in this universe is never going to happen.

This book is quite a bit shorter than Network Effect, and almost reads like a chopped-off section of the previous book. This is not necessarily a bad thing if you're caught up with the series, but this is definitely not an entry point for a new reader. If you haven't dipped into the Murderbot Diaries before, you would be best served by at least reading the previous book. Or ideally the entire series, as Murderbot is delightful. In this story, the aftereffects from the previous story are affecting it to the point of it having human-style flashbacks which shut it down entirely. But it has to push on and protect its humans, who are trying to save a planet and its colonists from corporate slavery (the Murderbot universe is a prime example of capitalism taken to extremes). They are clashing with the representatives of a rival corporation, Barish-Estranza, and also dealing with the previous book's alien infestation. It all makes for a fast-paced stew, with Murderbot's struggles and increased anxiousness the cherry on top.

I don't think this book is as good as Network Effect, but Murderbot makes a few emotional breakthroughs along the way (small ones, as it still hates the idea of even having emotions, but hey, baby steps):

I know I needed trauma recovery, I just didn't want to help figure it out for anybody else when I was still figuring it out for myself. But at least I knew now that was what I needed. I wanted to send a message to Dr. Bharadwaj about it--I don't know why, but just telling her stuff made it easier for me to figure out what I wanted to do. I had asked ART for a detailed description of what its trauma recovery treatment entailed and it had sent me the file, I just hadn't been able to make myself open it yet.

Presumably this trauma recovery will take up the next book, along with Murderbot's and ART's (which stands for Asshole Research Transport) further adventures. This isn't the best book of the series, but it's certainly worth reading.

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